The situation of children from families displaced within Ukraine due to Russia’s military aggression after 24 February 2022

Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial Brussels publishes a joint report on the situation of children in Ukraine during the 2022-2023 war, the results of monitoring the situation as part of the #crossborderchildhoodua campaign with the support of the Fondation de France.

The report was prepared by the Ukrainian Institute for Social Research after Oleksandr Yaremenko.

Analytical team: Tatyana Bondar, Alexey Ganyukov, Alexey Durnev. 

Assistant researchers: Nataliia Dmytruk, NGO Gender Creative Space, Svitlana Shcherban, sociologist, NGO “Kharkiv Institute for Social Research”.

With the support of the Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial- Brussels and the public movement «Faith, Hope, Love».

In Ukrainian Становище дiтей iз сiмей, вимушено перемiщених у межах Україні внаслiдок вiйськової агресії Росії пiсля 24 лютого 2022 року


Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine and the intensive fighting that has taken place there since Feb. 24, 2022, have dealt a severe blow to all kinds of living activities in the Ukrainian state. The military escalation and unprecedented deterioration in the security situation have caused the mass displacement of the civilian population within Ukraine and beyond in numbers unprecedented in modern European history.

Over 1.5 million people left Ukraine at the very beginning of the war – is from 27 February 2022 to 9 March 2022, over 150,000 people left the country every day. On 6 March 2022, a historic high of 210,500 people were recorded crossing the border. Since 24 February 2022, approximately one-third of all Ukrainians, including children, have been forced to flee their homes. According to data that is regularly updated by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as of 9 May 2023, 8,207,977 Ukrainian refugees were in Europe. Of these, 5,093,606 had registered for temporary protections and similar national protection mechanisms. In addition, the UNHCR has recorded 2,875,215 refugees in the aggressor countries of Russia and its satellite, Belarus. As of 23 January 2023, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) put the number of internally displaced people in Ukraine at 5,352,000.

Because of the hostilities and the fact that men aged 18 to 60 who are eligible for military service cannot leave the country, with the exception of individual cases, most migrants are women and children, which differs from previous years.

There are no exact figures on the number of Ukrainian children abroad because of the constantly changing situation and differing approaches to calculations, among other things. Various analytical systems put the percentage of children among refugees at 34%-40%, which means that almost 3 million children and young people have left Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion. In the summer of 2022, 672,000 Ukrainian schoolchildren were in different countries (interview with Ruslan Gurak, the head of the Ukrainian State Service of Education Quality, 21 July 2022); 185,000 Ukrainian children started the 2022-2023 academic year in Polish schools (interview with Polish Education Minister, 2 September 2022).

Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine has caused a significant deterioration in the situation with observance of children’s rights in migrant families. Communication between migrants and their family members who stayed in Ukraine has been complicated by the destruction of established migration processes.

Restrictions on the departure of men of draft age from Ukraine have caused many family separations. The extended stay of one or both parents abroad disrupts traditional ties and causes alienation and misunderstandings between members of their families. Trusting relationships between children and their absent fathers deteriorate and become more distant on both sides.

In general, the Russian-Ukrainian war has significantly complicated and even precluded observance of the rights of migrant children to education, rest and leisure, and a decent standard of living, the right not to be separated from parents, the right to the benefits of social security, and so forth.

Protecting children’s rights and analyzing compliance with the rights listed in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child requires accurate and verified information on the situation related to Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine and the mass evacuation of families with children from dangerous areas to other parts of Ukraine or abroad.

This report is based on an analysis of over 20 in-depth interviews and dozens of ad hoc surveys of parents from internally displaced families that were conducted from October 2022 to January 2023 both remotely and in person. The people questioned represent especially vulnerable groups, including large families, families with children with disabilities, and Romani families. It also includes the opinions of experts, government officials, and nonprofit organizations. In addition, it cites other studies on similar topics and data from other open sources.

This analysis highlights different aspects of the situation of Ukrainian children forced to flee their communities because of danger to their lives and health and the destruction of housing and infrastructure. It also describes the conditions and risks of forced migration and ways to overcome them.

This analysis has the following limitations:

  • Absence or scarcity of the accurate statistics required for analyzing the situation and calculating a sample set of quantitative surveys to correctly apply the resulting data to the total population.
  • The traumatic nature of the evacuation experience, respondents’ desire to avoid unpleasant memories and conversations about them.
  • Potential respondents’ lack of devices needed to participate in online surveys or their inability to use such devices.
  • Unstable internet connections in certain countries or localities.
  • A rapidly changing situation, which means that the data obtained during the study quickly lose their relevance.


1.1 Evacuation from combat and occupation zones

The entire population of Ukraine and its children in particular have been put in significant peril by the active hostilities in Ukraine’s southern and eastern regions; regular missile attacks, artillery shelling and bombing of areas throughout Ukraine; and the occupation of large swaths of territory by the Russian invaders. From the start of the large-scale invasion through 16 March 2022, Russian troops carried out almost 5,000 missile attacks and 3,500 airstrikes in Ukraine and 1,100 drone attacks. Most of the attacks were against civilian infrastructure like residential buildings, hospitals, preschools, and schools. In addition, the threat of nuclear terrorism on the part of Russia remains: The Russian authorities have repeatedly threatened to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. On 4 March 2022, the occupiers seized the Energodar and Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plants, which has periodically created the risk of a radiation disaster. In the winter, families with children were also evacuated due to the threat of an energy crisis. Because the Russian military shelled energy facilities, the country introduced scheduled and emergency power outages. Families, including ones with small children, had to live without electricity for a day or more. Damage to the electrical grid also meant that many buildings were left without heat or water. The desire to protect children’s lives and health from danger during wartime forced many parents to move their families to safer areas within the country.

The suddenness of the hostilities and the fact that many families were unprepared for evacuation in both psychological and practical terms created numerous difficulties and complications with their relocation. A certain number of families were forced to move for a second time since 2014 – first from the temporarily occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts to territories under Ukrainian government control, and then, after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, to other, safer areas or abroad. Some families refused to participate in planned evacuations on the eve of the Russian invasion and were therefore forced to move to a new location very quickly.

After making the decision to relocate at the start of the way, many Ukrainians had trouble finding safe exit routes, particularly in areas far removed from regional centers. The shifting frontline, bombed bridges, and mined roads blocked traffic along the best known routes. It took families several days to seek out information about possible routes out of dangerous territories. Some Ukrainians had to evacuate on foot. The move to western and central regions of Ukraine could take several days because of curfews and the large number of checkpoints and vehicles on the road.

Families reached the decision to move from their permanent residences primarily because they needed to avoid the dangers of regular shelling and the threat of occupation.

Some families based their choice of route on the possibility of receiving assistance from relatives and friends in safe regions of Ukraine (generally in Western Ukraine), while other families relied only on themselves and simply left without any clear plan.

The decision to leave was often immediately preceded by shelling, days spent in cellars and bomb shelters without enough food or personal hygiene products, or the occupation of neighboring localities.

“We spent a long time thinking about whether we should leave or not, but after we heard a rumbling and the house shook, I looked out the window and saw that anti-aircraft systems had been driven up…. Within literally an hour, we had collected out entire family, our loved ones and relatives.”
Man, internally displaced family with many children from Kharkiv, Roma.

“My husband’s relatives have a cousin…. We decided to come here because they promised to help us, and they have. The cousin reached an agreement with her godmother and allowed us to live in her apartment.”
Woman, internally displaced family with many children from Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast.

“There was a very powerful explosion. A blaze. The children started to scream. We packed and left in the morning.”
Woman, displaced family from Sloviansk, Donetsk Oblast, child with disabilities.

Many families evacuated under emergency conditions. They were terrified, lacked rest and comfortable living conditions, and feared for the safety of their children (data from the study: The experience of relocating family-type children’s homes during the Russian-Ukrainian war. Analytical report. Oleksandr Yaremenko Ukrainian Institute for Social Research, League of Ukrainian Social Workers. Kyiv, 2022).

“People were sitting on bags in the vestibules…. There were eight of us. Me, my daughter, my son, and my neighbors with their child. Another woman with two children and a cat was sitting with us. We took turns sleeping. My neighbor and I slept sitting up, switching the children’s places. It wasn’t very comfortable.”
Woman, internally displaced family with children from Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast.

“It was terrifying and awful. There were large vehicles on the road. It was scary, and it felt like the end.”
Man, internally displaced family with many children from Kharkiv, Roma.

“Everyone was in a state of shock. Everyone was exhausted. We had been up for almost four days.” Man, displaced family with many children from Kharkiv, Roma.

“It was very difficult get a spot on the train. There were so many people. We thought that we would be left there at the station with our children.”
Woman, displaced family from Sloviansk, Donetsk Oblast, child with disabilities.

“It was very difficult. At service stations, we asked for boiling water to make food. We never stopped once for the bathroom, because there were blackout measures and regular checkpoints. “It was very, very difficult.”
Woman, displaced family from Sloviansk, Donetsk Oblast, child with disabilities.

The Russian invaders often shelled evacuation routes. There were frequent cases when columns of civilian vehicles, evacuation buses and railway stations were shelled. Many pieces of civilian infrastructure, including roads, were mined. It should be noted that Russian soldiers are still blocking most evacuation routes. This is mainly done to use the civilian population as a human shield during counterattacks and the de-occupation of territories by the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

In some cases, the difficulties of evacuation were heightened by feelings of confusion and incomprehension about future prospects.

“We were driving anywhere, as long as it was away. Because a missile flew by the house. It hit the school, and this school was right by our house.”
Woman, displaced family from Sloviansk, Donetsk Oblast, child with disabilities.

Aside from the danger, an important argument in favor of evacuation was the desire not to live under Russian occupation.

“The breaking point was that I couldn’t live under occupation. It was psychologically oppressive.”
Woman, large internally displaced family from Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia Oblast.

Depending on the specific circumstances, families evacuated and continue to evacuate on their own, without any assistance, or with organizational and logistical support from local government representatives. At the state level, Ukrainian Railways is operating evacuation trains. Local authorities may also arrange transportation in buses and vans, while the police may evacuate people in armored vehicles. Nongovernmental organizations are doing a great deal to arrange transportation (Helping to Leave, HelpPeople, Proliska, Vostok-SOS, and others), as are concerned citizens and volunteers. Thanks to their efforts, organizational skills, and resources, some families have been able to relocate under relatively comfortable conditions.

“Everything was very well organized. There were lots of volunteers who helped, told us where we needed to go, what kind of transportation we needed to take, when our train would arrive. There were free lunches, sandwiches, and tea.”
Woman, internally displaced person with children from Kyiv Oblast, child with disabilities.

On 29 July 2022, Ukraine imposed mandatory evacuation on residents of unoccupied parts of Donetsk Oblast. Citizens refusing to evacuate must sign a document confirming that they understand all the consequences and take responsibility for their own lives. The government has increased liability for refusal to evacuate orphaned children or children without parental care from unoccupied areas of Donetsk Oblast: families, foster parents, and children’s homes caring for such children who refuse to evacuate will lose the right to serve as their guardians.

As of 10 May 2023, over nine months after mandatory evacuation from Donetsk Oblast was imposed, almost 70,000 citizens, including over 8,000 children and over 3,000 persons with restricted mobility, have relocated to safe regions. Evacuation from de-occupied areas, which began in the fall of 2022, is also continuing. As part of this, over 25,000 people have left Kharkiv Oblast over the course of eight months, while over 23,000 people have been evacuated from liberated areas of Kherson Oblast over the past six months. When evacuated people arrive at their assigned place, they receive one-time guaranteed financial assistance in the amount of 2,000 hryvnia per adult and 3,000 hryvnia per child under the age of 18 and for persons with disabilities. In April 2023 alone, the Ukrainian Ministry of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories transferred 16.2 million hryvnia to help displaced persons who were evacuated on trains.

The most difficult evacuation route for Ukrainians was and remains evacuation from temporarily occupied territories that involves passing through filtration camps. During filtration, adults and children are subjected to interrogations and searches. There have been cases of harsh treatment, violence, and even murder. Departure is often intentionally delayed by Russian soldiers, who may only let only a very limited number of cars through checkpoints. People are forced to wait in line several days in a row, stocking up on water, food, medicine, warm clothes, and so forth before leaving. It is particularly difficult for parents with infants and pregnant women to wait in such lines, since the evacuation routes do not offer any way for evacuated people to meet their personal hygiene needs and do not offer any shelter from the sun or bad weather.

1.2. Practice of separating families upon departure

Evacuation sometimes involves family separation, when some family members – generally elderly people – do not want to or cannot leave for safety and remain at their permanent residence despite threats to their life and health and extremely unpleasant living conditions. There have been cases where family members were killed during evacuation and shelling. Restrictions on men of draft age have made it impossible for them to leave the country.

“Our mother (my husband’s mother) just did not want to leave at all. My husband stayed with her, and my children and I left.”
Woman, internally displaced person with children from Kyiv Oblast, child with disabilities.

“We suffered because my husband stayed in Sloviansk and I left alone with the kids.”
Woman, displaced family from Sloviansk, Donetsk Oblast, child with disabilities.

The practice of evacuating children without an adult escort was not widespread. Most evacuated people said on the surveys that they did not notice children leaving dangerous places alone, without adults.

“I never saw a child standing somewhere crying.”
Woman, internally displaced family with children from Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast.

“I didn’t see any children like that. All the children were with their parents.”
Woman, internally displaced family with children from Kyiv Oblast, child with disabilities.

”All the children were with their parents.”
Man, displaced family with many children from Kharkiv, Roma.

There were only a handful of cases where children were evacuated without adults, and these cases were most likely exceptions to the general practice.

“I saw a boy, he was about 15. He was alone. His parents probably weren’t able to [evacuate]. He was sitting alone. He was very scared.”
Woman, internally displaced family with children from Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast, child with disabilities.

In general, children can be separated from their families, including temporarily, during departure from temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine and at filtration camps. As of 27 April 2023, the police had documented 52 places of captivity, torture rooms, and filtration camps set up in the temporarily occupied territories and in the Russian Federation. This included 27 filtration camps and prisons in temporarily occupied parts of Ukraine and seven in the Russian Federation. During filtration, parents and children may be separated and questioned separately. Children can also be subjected to inspections and searches without the consent or presence of parents or guardians. The Russian occupiers usually look for evidence of a pro-Ukrainian position or ties with [Ukrainian] law enforcement bodies or the Ukrainian Armed Forces. If anything like this is found, it is likely that this person will be held for an extended period and separated from their children. If there is no other adult to look after them, the children will be sent to a children’s home or other permanent children’s institution.


2.1. Living conditions and a secure environment

According to information from the Ukrainian Ministry of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories, as of October 2022, over 7 million Ukrainians were internally displaced. Over 1 million of them were children. Almost 1 million citizens found refuge in 5,670 collective centers for migrants (data from the Reintegration Ministry, October 2022). As of 27 April 2023, the homes of 2.5 million Ukrainian citizens were destroyed or damaged as a result of Russian aggression, and the homes of 170,000 were completely razed.

The majority of IDP in Ukraine were initially housed in state and public institutions (for example, 94% in Volyn Oblast), while the rest were housed in the private sector (cf. data from Ratnoye District, May 2022). The types of housing varied significantly in terms of comfort:

  • the least comfortable were the collective centers at educational institutions (schools, preschools), particularly in gyms, where up to 20 families and 50 displaced persons with their children could live for three to four months at the same time;
  • dormitories, which offered relatively comfortable conditions and the ability to house families in separate rooms.

When housing was being assigned, certain preferences were offered to IDP with children, mainly to families with children under six, who where housed in empty housing in the private sector when possible. Because educational institutions were preparing for the new academic year, in early August 2022, IDP with children in hromadas in Volyn and Lviv oblasts started being moved out of educational institutions and other public institutions into other more suitable housing and into leased housing.

Some evacuated families were housed in hotels, sanatoriums, schools, and other facilities not suitable for permanent residence. This meant they could not set up their households properly and sensed how temporary their stay would be (report by Evacuation City. 6 May 2022 A. Korotenko. Many have nowhere to return. How foster families and family-type children’s homes are evacuated). For many families, evacuation involved the loss of many items needed in daily life – devices, means of transportation, clothes, toys. Many also lost their household gardens.

Over time, only a small number of IDP have remained in reception/service centers or collective centers in the country’s western regions. Most LDP rent housing or live with relatives or friends in different parts of Ukraine. It has also become common for many families to move from city centers to the suburbs and rural areas, where homes and dachas are used as temporary housing (The socioeconomic and humanitarian consequences of Russian aggression for Ukrainian society. Informational and analytical report. Kyiv, 2022).

Housing conditions for evacuated families can vary significantly depending on the specific characteristics of a given locality. Collective settlements are particularly uncomfortable for families with children, particularly ones with many children, and the lack sufficient living space. Apartments and houses that have been borrowed or leased (for free or for a fee) are moderately more comfortable. Living conditions for children/adolescents living in temporary residences with their parents, relatives, and siblings, are seen as particularly critical. During interviews, parents emphasized that their children are living in much less comfortable conditions during the war than they were before. In particular, they noted the lack of separate sleeping accommodations and storage for clothes, books, and toys. According to a sample survey in Volyn Oblast, half of children do not have their own beds and share one with their mother, grandmother, or sibling. The lack of living space creates the additional psychological risks of apathy and depression in children.

“This is not our housing. We’re using what we were given. We have a place to sleep and cook, and that’s already a lot. The children are adjusting, but it’s not comfortable. The children have separate beds, but not separate rooms. We live in the same room.”
Man, IDP, father of two children, family living in Piddubtsy, Volyn Oblast

Most displaced families say that they are living in poor conditions and that housing often does not have elementary amenities. The extremely cramped quarters sometimes cause misunderstandings and test relationships with other evacuated people.

“We live in one room. The shower is in the basement. It’s cold, because we have to wash in a basin. We take turns cooking. Only two burners work on the stove, so we take turns cooking. There are 20 of us on the floor. And there can be a lot of drama.”
Woman, displaced family, mother of a child with disabilities from Sloviansk, Donetsk Oblast.

“We have nothing but a roof over our heads. It’s bitterly cold.”
Woman, displaced family with children from Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast.

“It’s okay, more or less, but it’s damp and moldy.”
Woman, displaced family, Roma from Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast.

“We’re living in a shelter now. There are too many people. My children and I live in a back room.”
Woman, displaced family with children from Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia Oblast.

It is possible to rent comfortable housing, but it is too expensive for many IDP. Realtors interviewed in Lviv, Uzhgorod and Ivano-Frankivsk confirm that rents have doubled or even tripled since the war began. At the start of the war, “small, one-room apartments in Uzhgorod, Lviv and even regional centers rented for $1,000. Then apartments with lower rents ($500-$800) appeared, but they were taken right away. The locals said that rents were under $300 here before the war” (media report: O. Miasishchev. “High season. What’s happening with the cost of rent for displaced people.” Liga.Biznes.6 April 2022). After relocating, several families had to change their housing because they couldn’t afford the rent. Some families had to return to their permanent residence because of the danger of regular shelling by Russia.

“We lived in a hotel. So that you understand, it cost 300 hryvnia per person, per day. Me and my husband, plus food. It was very expensive.”
Woman, displaced family with children from Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast.

However, rented private housing does not always provide good living conditions; sometimes owners who have invited IDP in ask them to leave after some time because they feel psychological discomfort.

“We’re renting, we moved. We lived there for four months, but then we moved because the owners were also uncomfortable.”
Woman, Roma, evacuated from Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast.

“I wouldn’t say that the conditions are good here, so we are looking for new housing or other options. I’m a man. I can sleep on the floor, but my daughters, my wife, I would like for them to feel more comfortable.”
Father with many children, Roma, evacuated from Kharkiv.

The experience of Volyn and Lviv oblasts shows that displaced families with children under the age of 12 rarely changed their temporary housing. Displaced families with older children have moved around more and have changed their residences more frequently in search of a better home for the winter, better conditions for education, and better opportunities for work. IDP have been regularly housed in dormitories. Dormitory residents were more satisfied with living conditions than people who lived in group residences at public institutions and resorted less frequently to further relocation or searching for more comfortable living conditions.

In the summer of 2022, public institutions started receiving better funding for making conditions more comfortable for LDP. This made it possible to repair and rebuild living spaces, and more humanitarian assistance became available from donors.

Some families surveyed said that they were generally satisfied with their living conditions. Living spaces where evacuated families were housed were often in need of work (renovation, repairs to utilities, winterization, and so forth). In such cases, families paid for this work themselves, or local hromadas, nongovernmental organizations, or concerned residents provided whatever help they could. Members of volunteer organizations did a great deal to provide acceptable conditions.

“The conditions are good, actually very good. Volunteers come regularly, and we receive humanitarian aid. Everything is fine.”
Woman, displaced family with children from Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast.

There are plans to build public housing in Ukraine to house IDP (for example, in the village of Mykytyntsi (a municipal hromada of Ivano-Frankisk) with EU support) – report by RBK-Ukraine. 8 March 2022).

2.2 Access of displaced children to education

Most educational institutions in areas where hostilities are/were underway resumed distance learning in the first months of the war. Schooling was barely interrupted in the western part of the country, but it was also mainly online for a long time. Now, a large number of schools and preschools can provide a high enough level of safety that they can operate in person during wartime.

According to data from the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science, as of 24 January 2023, classes had started at 9,689 preschools, including

in-person at 5,068 (348,240 children);

remote at 3,204 (226,404 children);

hybrid at 1,417 (113,263 children).

There are 921 preschools in the temporarily occupied territories.

Currently, 63.5% of preschool-aged children attend preschool. This figure stood at 49.9% on 24 December 2022. Children from displaced families attend 6,015 preschools (24,177 children).

Classes are being held at 12,926 general secondary education schools, including

in-person at 3,955 schools (1,100,993 students);

remote at 4,363 schools (1,668,466 students);

hybrid at 4,608 schools (1,201,364 students);

Of these, 9,990 schools provide educational services to internally displaced children (156,638 students).

Aside from the right to education, displaced children in Ukraine can count on additional benefits and guarantees as apart of targeted state support. These include the right to priority enrollment in preschools, free hot lunches, continuation of education at the proper level and distance learning, rest and rehabilitation, and various forms of targeted support for professional and higher education (free training in accordance with targeted quotas, soft loans, stipends, free textbooks and Internet access, dormitory rooms, and so forth).

A survey of displaced families in Volyn and Lviv oblasts showed that education is a high priority for one-third of displaced women with children who moved to these regions and comes right after needs like financial self-sufficiency, resolution of housing problems, and public assistance.

Practice shows that most children from evacuated families are continuing to study online at the schools in their old communities. Parents say this choice is an attempt to preserve children’s familiar social bonds with their peers and teachers. The experience with distance learning that children and parents acquired during the COVID-19 pandemic, before the start of Russia’s full-blown aggression against Russia, has made using this format painless now.

“We decided that she [our daughter] would attend her school online. She has already been doing distance learning for two years. Because first grade was quarantine, and then we had the war.”
Woman, displaced family with children from Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast.

“The children are attending school online. Since late February until this very day. They don’t attend in person.”
Woman, internally displaced family with children, one of whom has a disability, from Kyiv Oblast.

“We prefer distance learning. Because we know both the children and the teachers, so we have continued with distance learning.”
Man, displaced family, Roma from Kharkiv.

“We are continuing to attend our school online. I think it would have been hard for him to attend a local school. Everything is a little different here.”
Woman, internally displaced family, child with disabilities, from Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast.

Distance learning is occasionally interrupted by blackouts and unstable internet connections caused by shelling by the Russian Army.

“There aren’t any problems with studying per se, just that the electricity goes off. How can you complete your homework on time? If there’s no electricity, there’s no internet, and mobile internet doesn’t work well either.”
Boy, 15, displaced family, Kostiantynivka , Donetsk Oblast.

However, many parents and children from displaced families prefer in-person learning. Parents in particular believe that online learning requires sufficient living space (an individual workstation), financial resources, and devices (laptop, tablet, or computer), access to technology, and the ability to pay for an internet connection. These factors are quite critical for all displaced families, particularly when they have two or more children of school age.

Parents also note that offline study and in-person communications with teachers and peers have become a source of positive emotions, provide children with a sense of relative stability and safety (as proof of being in a safe space), and help them overcome the stress caused by war. This effect is particularly important for young schoolchildren:

“My grandson has become calmer now. He likes first grade. He also comforts us. We are really pleased with the school. We are also happy that the school has a large basement. He keeps an old backpack with chocolate, wafers, and water there. This makes him feel safe. He sat in the root cellar for two weeks at home. A bomb landed in our yard. There were explosions on the streets when my son took him away on his moped. Now, when our grandson hears an alarm, he starts to worry. He starts collecting his things and goes into a shelter.”
Grandmother of a 7-year-old first grader, displaced family from Lysychansk, Luhansk Oblast, who moved to Lviv Oblast.

“We transferred the children to our local school and have no regrets. Now they can attend school without hiding in cellars or hallways. For comparison, there were constant air raid alerts in Mykolaiv in September – up to 10 a day. I can’t imagine how a child could possibly study there.”
Mother of two children, displaced family, moved to Lviv Oblast.

Teachers who work in schools that displaced children attend make every effort to take the special educational needs of these children into account. Most parents surveyed said that counseling and support are available before children start attending a new school. In particular, there is support harmonizing various academic programs like adapting the Intellect of Ukraine program to the New Ukrainian School concept.

“The children are acclimated to learning. Before starting to attend classes, we met everyone who had something to do with our child’s education. The children were able to meet with the teachers in person. Everything they need for studying is right there. The children are studying. They want to attend school here, and they will.”
Mother of two children, displaced family, moved to Lviv Oblast.

It is worth speaking separately about the problems faced by displaced children with special educational needs. The results of a UNESCO monitoring survey show that the new housing sites where children requiring an inclusive approach end up often have a limited list of accessible and inclusive services (Ukraine: War Response: Children with Disabilities. UNICEF, 10 June 2022). Hromadas that accept IDP have limited resources and capabilities to provide a quality education for children with special educational needs. Local hromadas are in need of equipment to provide an inclusive education. This includes the equipment to hold the corresponding training sessions, organize learning (including distance learning) in special classrooms at general secondary education schools, and organize learning (including distance learning) at academic-rehabilitation centers, as well as tools to support learning (including remote learning) for children with special educational needs, particularly with vision and hearing disorders.

“Almost 40% of hromadas do not have sufficient equipment to organize classes for children with special educational needs. Sixty percent of hromadas have reported that they need equipment to organize inclusive learning and the corresponding training for teachers. Almost 40% of communities need equipment for children with disabilities so that they have access to educational institutions. These additional needs for equipment and materials have been prompted by the sharp jump in the number of internally displaced children who need support” (Final report. Assessment of Ukraine’s educational needs (6 May – 4 June 2022). Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science).

Displaced children of preschool age generally attend children’s institutions. None of the parents of such children who were surveyed reported any difficulties enrolling their children in preschool, and some said that local authorities helped them with this:

“Everything was fine. We were accepted at the preschool. The teachers treated them like normal kids. The other children made friends with them. Everything was fine.”
Mother of a child with disabilities, displaced family from Sloviansk, Donetsk Oblast.

“Now they go to preschool. They really like it.”
Mother of a child, displaced family with children from Kostiantynivka, Donetsk Oblast.

“We went to the education department, where we were referred to a school, and that was that. The children will be attending preschool for free beginning 1 June.”
Mother of a child, displaced family with children from Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia Oblast.

At the same time, there are distinct problems with providing a preschool education for children from displaced families. Neither rural nor urban hromadas in Lviv Oblast have enough spots in preschools. Since the beginning of the war, these areas have provided temporary housing for displaced families, particularly with many young children. However, since the start of the new school year, not all parents (especially working parents) have been able to enroll their children in preschools because of overcrowding.

2.3 Recreational services and the ability to organize leisure activities for displaced children

The war has severely limited children’s opportunities for recreation and leisure. Many summer sanitariums, recreational facilities, and children’s camps are not longer accessible because of the occupation, mines, and the fact that a major part of Ukrainian territory is polluted with the remains of weapons. Since the start of the war, the Ukrainian State Agency for Tourism Development has maintained a list of leisure activities banned in wartime: rafting, hiking, walks and excursions near critical infrastructure and military and strategic sites; mass events (festivals, concerts, etc.); visits to tourist attractions near the Belarussian and Russian borders; visits to some mountain trails, bodies of water, and forests in different regions; leisure activities in eastern Ukraine, particularly in frontline zones; and trips to territories under occupation.

Tourism statistics for 2022 testify to a major drop in leisure activities: Total receipts from tourism fell by 24% in comparison to 2021. A drop was recorded in 14 Ukrainian regions. These were mainly oblasts in the combat zone and temporarily occupied oblasts. Tourism receipts fell by 95% in Kherson Oblast, 90% in Mykolaiv Oblast, 83% in Donetsk Oblast, and 80% in Luhansk Oblast. Major drops were also seen in Odesa (80%), Zaporizhzhia (78%), Kharkiv (61%), Sumi (58%), Chernihiv (53%), Kyiv (43%), and Zhytomyr (24%) oblasts, and in the city of Kyiv (54%).

Ruined infrastructure is another reason why children have limited opportunities for recreation and leisure. The Russian occupiers regularly shell sports complexes, children’s camps and sanitoriums, children’s arts centers, cultural institutions and malls and entertainment centers.

Many internally displaced families had to forgo vacations in 2022 because of a lack of funds. The need to rent housing, the loss of work, and higher prices for food and goods have forced parents to save on rest and recreational activities for their children. Some families received help with this problem from nongovernmental organizations, charitable foundations, and businesses, which have organized low- or no-cost children’s camps, trips, and recreational activities for IDP. For their part, state agencies have helped children take vacations abroad through intergovernmental agreements and direct ties between Ukrainian and foreign municipalities. The Ukrainian government has also made it easier for groups of children to travel abroad for rest and recreation while the country is under martial law.

The situation with leisure, recreation, and enrichment activities for internally displaced children varies widely depending on their living conditions and the families’ needs. Some parents said that their families are not involved in these activities and base their position on lack of desire and the temporary nature of their new residence. It is also important to consider that members of displaced families surveyed may feel differently about recreational and enrichment activities for children and may have different views on free time. Interviews made it clear that some people even ignore leisure services that are available. A member of one displaced family commented that for today’s children, free time and communication with others is largely focused on the virtual world, so his children didn’t experience any major changes in what they were allowed to do after evacuation. In many cases, families did not have a developed internal culture of free time or want to diversify their leisure activities. Respondents tried to explain their limited demand with limitations (including financial limitations) on access to services, regardless of the actual opportunities for this.

“She (daughter, 7) doesn’t go anywhere. We thought about dance classes, but I don’t see a point in starting them and then stopping later. I don’t go anywhere, I’m not in the right mood for it.”
Mother of two children, evacuated from Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast.

“Young people spend 90% of their social lives online. It’s not good. They communicated through TikTok, etc.
Man, Roma, evacuated from Kharkiv.

Some displaced families were active in various clubs and sports classes prior to evacuation and pointed out that they did not have the same conditions and opportunities for this after moving.

“We had everything set up. Our daughter went to dance classes. She had a busy life with clubs and English classes. And she lost all this in one fell swoop.”
Woman evacuated to Lviv Oblast.

“My son is a candidate master of sports in ballroom dancing. That’s the only sport the doctor permitted him to do. He has attended dance class since he was four. Khust doesn’t have anything like this, but he needs to train, he needs physical exercise. He’s used to living in that mode, but there’s nothing like that here.”
Mother of a child with disabilities, evacuated from Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast.

Leisure activities are hardest to find in places where groups of people are housed. Members of displaced families living in shelters or dormitories say that children do not have any personal space and that there is nowhere to store articles that are important to a child’s development (books, toys). There is also a deficit of resources for children and adolescents – sports equipment, musical instruments, computers, access to television and sometimes the internet. Sometimes leisure activities for both parents and children are limited to watching television and taking walks. In some cases, inability to pay for clubs and classes is the reason given for this.

“We mainly watch television, on the phone, TikTok. We might play dominos. When it was warm, we took walks and went to the park.”
Mother of a child with disabilities, evacuated from Slovyansk.

“The opportunity is always there, but it’s also a financial matter. We might go somewhere if we had money.”
Woman evacuated from Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia Oblast.

Surveys in Lviv and Volyn oblasts showed that despite the efforts of humanitarian projects and volunteers, rural hromadas in these regions generally lack quality extracurricular classes, enrichment, and leisure activities for boys and girls of various ages. Because of limited financing, local authorities are not able to monitor, plan for, or provide leisure activities for displaced children as a separate category of the population. Most displaced children are at least occasionally involved in clubs, in-depth study of school subjects, or sports classes.

Experience has shown how important it is to develop services for children, children’s rooms in dormitories, and development centers that take into account the adaptation and sociopsychological rehabilitation of children and provide ways to overcome the stress and upheaval related to evacuation. Parents noted that their children adapt more quickly when they have these services:

“As soon as I arrived, I registered the kids for all sorts of clubs and master classes. I was very tired, but I saw how this helped my children.”
Woman evacuated from Volyn Oblast.

“We attend all the clubs, at least the ones that are free, and the master classes for IDP. We have lots of photos from them. They also had finger theaters. It was very interesting.”
Mother of a child with disabilities, evacuated from Kyiv Oblast.

The state targeted program to support displaced children in Ukraine envisages the right to rehabilitation and rest at the expense of the state, local budgets, and other sources. In practice, however, there are problems implementing this right.

Members of displaced families surveyed avoid going outside of their community for rehabilitation. The arguments for this boil down to matters of physical and psychological security: After difficult evacuations, IDP try to avoid any agitation related to moving around. After everything they had to go through, parents don’t want to separate from their children. In addition, there are still risks of shelling even in relatively calm Zakarpattia.

“No, no. I don’t think this is the time to be taking children somewhere. I feel better when my child’s with me.”
Mother of a child with disabilities, evacuated from Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast.

“There are air raid sirens all the time. When there were a couple of incoming strikes in Zakarpattia, we decided to be more careful in this sense.”
Father of many children, Roma from Kharkiv.

My job offered a trip to a children’s camp, to send my son to Slovakia. We didn’t have his passport for travel abroad in Vladyk, and it would have been scary to let him go.”
Woman, internally displaced family, child with disabilities, from Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast.

Some parents surveyed said that they would like the chance to rehabilitate their children but that social services were not able to help them with this.

“I submitted documents to social services, but they didn’t suggest anything. Going somewhere to find out if I have the opportunity or not, standing in a line with the children – it’s inconvenient, very inconvenient.”
Woman evacuated from Kostiantynivka, Donetsk Oblast.

2.4. Problems adapting to new conditions and overcoming the language barrier

Some families who moved from eastern Ukraine to the western regions had quite a few problems adapting to unfamiliar living conditions, ways of life, and communication practices.

“They believe that we are very different, and this makes them feel alienated.”
Staff member at a social services center in Dobrosino-Magerovskaya territorial hromada, Lviv Oblast.

“There are children who left and live in very rural areas, where there isn’t even internet access. They’re not used to this.”
Staff member at the SOS Children’s Villages of Ukraine charitable foundation.

During the first stage of adaptation, displaced families sometimes have problems related to the coordination of efforts of various structures that work to provide assistance and to local features.

“Initially, there was a question of coordination. Those families didn’t know where to go to get help. All of this has been worked out now.”
Representative of the Ukrainian Education Platform charitable foundation.

In some cases, conflicts with local residents and members of the local government have arisen when families arrive at their new place of residence, because parents aren’t prepared to accept unfamiliar realities and are confused and easily irritated. This usually happened in the early stages of residence in a new place, but the families adjusted over time and the conflicts became less severe.

“A foster father argued with local authorities, but the situation has already improved.”
Staff member at the office of children’s services, Lviv Oblast Military State Administration.

“I know there were conflicts. This is a question of culture and education. But there’s nothing like that now. People have become more loyal.”
Representative of the Ukrainian Education Platform charitable foundation.

Sometimes obstacles to a family’s successful adaptation in a new place are lack of understanding of the special characteristics of IDPs on the part of local residents, a false sense of injustice, and the more privileged situation of the new arrivals in comparison to local residents.

“In some communities, all the men have left for the front. And these (families) came with husbands. This makes locals ask why they’re not at the front, why they’re walking around the city. There’s less of that now, but there were problems.”
Representative of the Ukrainian Education Platform charitable foundation.

Problems with adaptation were sometimes also caused by excessively high expectations and parents’ inappropriate demands of local authorities. Even though most evacuated families reported that they felt supported by local authorities after moving to a new area, a significant number of those surveyed said that they felt they were left alone with their problems in their new place of residence.

“People wanted special attention from someone. They didn’t really get it, so that led to conflicts and misunderstandings.”
Staff member at the office of children’s services, Lviv Oblast Military State Administration.

In spite of temporary troubles, most families generally overcame the difficulties of the first stage of adaptation successfully, including with support from the relevant departments of hromada administrations, nongovernmental and religious organizations, and local residents.

“Everyone is involved in the hromadas: social workers, social services, and residents. Social workers went around to all of them, trying to help them based on their needs.”
Staff member at the office of children’s services, Lviv Oblast Military State Administration.

“Of course, it’s hard for them to adjust and adapt. Help is provided by residents and parishioners, the church helps, we help as a center, as a social service. That is, everyone helps. We bring in charitable foundations.”
Staff member at a social services center in Dobrosino-Magerovskaya territorial hromada, Lviv Oblast.

“It is really important to introduce them to each other. So that local residents support IDP. This happens over time, not right away, but eventually. The office of children’s services does whatever it can for this.”
Representative of Care in Action nongovernmental organization.

Families who moved from the eastern regions of Ukraine to Lviv, Ternopil, and Ivano-Frankivsk oblasts, needed to adapt to the special features of the local mentality, overcome the language barrier, and adjust to everyday customs and ways of communication.

“They moved from an eastern region to a western one and absolutely did not want to speak with anyone in Ukrainian, for example.”
Staff member at the SOS Children’s Villages of Ukraine charitable foundation.

“It was hard for some to adapt to Galicia. The language factor was a problem.”
Staff member at the office of children’s services, Lviv Oblast Military State Administration.

“They feel like the people in Western Ukraine are a little different, that they even greet each other differently. This leads to difficulties and misunderstandings.”
Representative of Care in Action nongovernmental organization.

“They aren’t used to the dialect. When we asked them: ‘Do you have kolezhanki [female colleagues], their eyes would go wide – what’s a kolezhanka?”
Staff member at the office of children’s services, Zabolottsi territorial hromada, Lviv Oblast.

Overall, contradictory information has been received about discrimination against IDP on the part of receiving hromada. Some IDP deny the existence of such conflicts, but others believe there are cases of bias on the part of the local population and that local residents do not want to rent apartments to IDP. Some respondents reported that they have never personally encountered such cases, but that they know of conflicts caused by local residents’ complaints against IDP for not understanding the reasons for their evacuation and for the fact that men in their families are not participating in defending the country. Members of evacuated Roma families reported that traditional prejudices against Roma are sometimes heightened in situations where they are forced to move to safer regions.

“Everyone is fine here. They talk normally, they’re friendly. People are different, but many people are sympathetic and want to help.”
Mother of two children, evacuated from Kostiantynivka, Donetsk Oblast.

Cases of discrimination are often due to the critical view the hromada populations have of Russian speakers, both adults and children. Parents complained during interviews that there is not enough tolerance for children who don’t speak Ukrainian:

“They make comments about language; conflicts may arise because of the Russian language… This is especially painful for children…. it is psychologically painful for children, especially when other children make fun of them. Children are harsher, more categorical” (From the study: “Problems of Displaced Families with Children.” Aktivnoye Obshchestvo. July 8, 2022).

In general, children’s underdeveloped Ukrainian language skills do not always lead to situational discrimination on the part of politically biased and intolerant representatives of local hromada, but some regions of Ukraine lack rules for empathetic verbal communication with displaced families, in particular, with displaced children, on the part of the authorities and receiving hromada.

“They don’t say anything to children directly. But they turn and look at children when they speak Russian. All the children here in our dormitory speak Russian. It hasn’t happened that a child has been bullied for their language.”
Woman evacuated from Lutsk.

“We were not able to rent an apartment in Lutsk because we are IDP. We were always asked where we were from, and we said that we are IDP. And they responded: Sorry, we will have to reject you.”
Woman evacuated from Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast.

“The local population treated us with contempt. The didn’t beat us with sticks, but you could feel the contempt.”
Woman evacuated from Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast.

“A homeless person on the square called us Russkies. That was unbelievable.”
Mother of a child with disabilities, evacuated from Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast.

Displaced families are generally calm and understanding when local residents do not understand them correctly.

“Well, it happens, at the market, at the store. People can be different. We don’t pay attention to it.”
Mother of a child with disabilities, evacuated from Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast.

“Well, there were cases when people said things like, you don’t speak Ukrainian. Once, it seems, it was a conductor. But that was all.”
Mother of several children, evacuated from Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast.

Sometimes, difficulties with communication between Russian-speaking families and local Ukrainian-speaking families do not have a noticeable impact on their adaptation to their new environment in terms of communication with the local population.

“Basically, here half of their words are in Russian, even though they’re locals. As one taxi driver said, we all attended Russian school.”
Woman, evacuated from Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast.

There were such moments. When you go into a store and they understand by your accent that you’re from Kharkiv. But otherwise, they’re fine. They just speak Ukrainian all the time. There are times I don’t understand, but I just ask.”
Man, Roma, evacuated from Kharkiv.

Language difficulties are generally the exception, not the rule.

“I have trouble speaking Ukrainian. I’m not able to.”
Mother of several children, evacuated from Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast.

Children from displaced families have trouble with their studies, since they don’t speak Ukrainian well enough.

“Children definitely have difficult moments with language. The hromada says that they spoke Ukrainian, but it is hard for them to switch to Ukrainian. They don’t understand. The language barrier is hard for some children.”
Representative of Care in Action nongovernmental organization.

Meanwhile, children and adults adapt better than adult members of evacuated families.

“The children are generally better at adapting than the parents. Although the parents never show this. The children are open. They speak freely. It’s easier for them to open up.”
Staff member at the office of children’s services, Kosivsk territorial hromada, Ternopil Oblast

In schools, teachers try to devote more attention to displaced children because they understand their difficult family situation. Sometimes respondents mentioned that school psychologists took part in providing assistance.

“The teachers try to devote more attention to our children. They try to chat with them during breaks, to be nice to them, to ask them what’s wrong and if they need help with anything.” We have a school psychologist in our school. He speaks with these children.”
Woman, IDP from Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast.

When evacuated children are taught in Ukrainian, this minimizes the language barrier and accelerates their integration.

“And they (our children) don’t speak Russian. They’re Ukrainian-speaking.”
Mother of two children, evacuated from Kostiantynivka, Donetsk Oblast.

2.5 Emotional and psychological state of families and access to psychological care

According to the sociological group Rating (Sixth national poll: adaptation of Ukrainians to war 19 March 2022), people forced to change their place of residence experience a higher level of psychological exhaustion than the population in relatively safe regions.

Ninety-six percent of refugees experience negative states like confusion, hopelessness (55%), guilt before people who stayed home (50%), and emotional instability (50%). Thirty-nine percent of refugees can manage at least one of these negative states (usually when there are feelings of guilt and apathy – 4 out of 10 and 3 out of 10 refugees, respectively). However, these states are not too intense for most refugees, and they are able to manage negative emotions relatively easily. Young refugees (16-34) are more inclined to experience strong negative emotions. Most young refugees struggle with feelings of guilt, emotional instability, apathy, and anger (data from Info Sapiens, an analysis of the needs, living conditions, and emotional state of people forced to leave Ukraine because of Russia’s military aggression).

The complex emotional and psychological state of many evacuated families is due to many factors, including:

  • Uncertainty about the future, sense of temporary status
  • Disruption of accustomed way of life
  • Loss of accustomed social ties in a regular environment for both parents and children
  • Lack of knowledge on the part of some parents/caregivers about their rights and the rights of their children/wards
  • When families are evacuated abroad, many have trouble adapting to the unfamiliar way of interacting with local authorities and residents.
  • Complex psychological state of parents, psychological problems with many children who have lived through shelling, bombing, and evacuation.
  • Inability to adapt temporary accommodations for comfortable living for families, absence of proper living and sanitary conditions
  • Dependence of many families on the readiness and desire of local hromadas and their leaders to receive them and provide the assistance required to arrange their lives and register in their new communities.

Stressful conditions of moving, confusion, and lack of understanding about prospects had a negative effect on both children and adults.

“When you talk with people. you can see that they lived through something [difficult]. People can’t totally open up right away. They need some time.”
Staff member at the office of children’s services, Kosivsk territorial hromada, Ternopil Oblast

IDP often experience heightened anxiety, fear of loud noises, problems sleeping, weakness, headaches, and other manifestations of stress (data from the study “The situation of internally displaced families with children, foster families, and reception-type children’s homes during wartime,” SOS Children’s Villages of Ukraine).

In many cases, the stress of moving and subsequently living in difficult conditions have resulted in changes in relations between parents, parents and children, and children and other children.

Some of the consequences of family separation following evacuation include a breakdown of traditional ties, alienation of children from their parents, and the emergence of various misunderstandings. Migration and separate living arrangements for one or several family members deepened existing problems in relations, leading to conflicts and children becoming set against one of their parents. The long-term absence of one parent (generally the father) makes children feel distant from them and see them almost as strangers.

“The children don’t have enough face-to-face conversation. For children to grow up well, both parents are needed. And if they’re alone with the mother or the father, that’s not how it should be. The children pull away from them. They become more self-conscious and keep their distance.”
Woman, 37, mother of two children.

At the same time, many families are able to alleviate the negative consequences of living separately by using modern technologies like regular online communication on social media and messenger services.

Children in migrant families become independent early and learn how to solve everyday problems on their own. Children with limited life experience who live independently have an unsatisfied need for adult advice. The traditional needs of adolescents often go unmet in migrant children, and questions are left unaswered. Aside from numerous practical problems, the extended absence of a parent gives rise to feelings of constant despair and trouble studying.

Women who evacuated separately from men commented that they have become more independent and decisive and have to solve problems that their husbands usually handled. At the same time, this prevents women from being deeply involved in children’s problems.

“I have to get by without a man. I have to call the plumber, bring water, dig up the potatoes, lay them in for winter. It’s obviously become harder, there is no male strength.”
Displaced woman, mother of three children.

“I have started devoting less time to my child, because I have to take care of other duties that I used to share with my husband. I have to deal with everyday issues, cook, clean, go somewhere to pay for something or solve some problem. I don’t have much time for my child.”
Displacedwoman, 45, mother of one child

Even when children have warm and trusting relationships with their parents, they often feel the absence of a family member, which cannot be fully replaced with daily conversations online or infrequent meetings in person. The problem of raising and taking care of children becomes more complicated when children reach adolescence, which is when they have a particular need for trusting communication and monitoring on the part of older family members.

“I have low self-esteem, because to have self-esteem, to be able to stand up for myself, I need my father to help, and I don’t have that.”
Anna, 13, displaced child.

According to surveys of parents from displaced families in six Ukrainian oblasts (Study “The situation of internally displaced families with children, foster families and family-type children’s home in wartime,” Kharkiv Institute for Social Research, Sept. – Nov. 2022, six Ukrainian oblasts), the absolute majority of displaced children experienced some kind of stress-inducing event or situation:

  • 77% of children faced shelling and bombing;
  • 73% spent time in shelters;
  • 53% were separated from loved ones;
  • 24% witnessed damage to or destruction of their homes;
  • 12% were not able to receive urgent medical care;
  • it took 15% more than 12 hours to evacuate temporarily occupied territories;
  • 8% lacked food or access to drinking water;
  • 8% had to contend with the death of a relative or loved one;
  • 4% had to pass through filtration camps.

A significant number of parents have noticed changes in their children’s behavior since the start of the war. For example, 42% of parents said that their child is always or often depressed, 25% reported that their child has trouble sleeping, 21% said their child had difficulty concentrating, and 18% said their child worried for no apparent reason. Over one-third of parents (37%) said that their child needs to or probably should see a psychologist, while 20% say they themselves need psychological care. Meanwhile, only 5% of parents surveyed by the Kharkiv Institute for Social Research said that they are receiving such care.

Our interviews in Volyn and Lviv oblasts also showed that the majority of displaced families who survived bombing, the destruction of their homes, and difficult evacuations felt a desperate need for psychological care and even just human support and sympathy. Parents generally recognized that they were experiencing certain psychological issues, and many stated directly that they needed help from a professional psychologist, while several had already sought help.

“This whole situation really weighs on you. You’re in a state where you don’t feel like getting up in the morning.”
Woman, internally displaced family with children, one of whom has a disability, from Kyiv Oblast.

“Yes, we sought psychological care for our daughter. She was provided with care.”
Man, displaced family, Roma from Kharkiv.

“Unfortunately, we don’t receive (psychological care), but we really need it.”
Mother of a child, displaced family with children from Kostiantynivka, Donetsk Oblast.

In rare cases, respondents admitted that they had psychological problems, but believed they could overcome them on their own.

“We haven’t sought help. We’ll manage on our own. (We had to live through a lot:) an explosion shattered the windows in our apartment in May. My daughter misses her father terribly.”
Woman, displaced family with children from Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast.

There is a critical shortage of resources for psychological care in remote rural hromadas and in hromadas with underdeveloped sociopsychological services and departments (for example, without inclusive resource centers). Nongovernmental organizations, volunteers, and residents of receiving hromadas who help find jobs for displaced people work to identify children with existing psychological issues or issues that developed during the war.

The experience of Volyn and Lviv oblasts shows that children were only rarely, if ever, provided with sociopsychological care during the first months when displaced families with children were moving (Feb. to May 2022). There are several reasons for this. First, local communities did not have well-developed sociopsychological services or enough of the required specialists. Second, communities did not take control of existing services at inclusive communal resource centers to the extent possible or in a timely manner. Third, IDP were resistant to sociopsychological services and passively ignored them, even given the existence of NGO projects focused on this. Parents only decided to seek specialized care when their children experienced extended and visible psychiatric disorders. But even today monitoring surveys have only recorded moderate demand and moderate use of sociopsychological services, even though parents from displaced families say there is an obvious need for psychological care for children who have witnessed war:

“We lived under shelling for a long time – 45 days… I was very scared for my child. I know many families where the children have been traumatized by war. My friend’s son stopped talking.”
Mother of a 7-year-old girl from Kharkiv, the family arrived in Lutsk.

“The children are withdrawn. They’re afraid of the slightest noise.”
Mother of three children, family arrived in Lviv Oblast.

Even amid moving, changes in accustomed living conditions, and the high level of psychological pressure caused by uncertainty and daily problems, few migrant families have extended or protracted conflicts. The most common occasional conflicts are between children and between children and parents that are caused not so much by evacuation as by regular problematic relations in the family. For example, one family told an interviewer that their child went into the city without their parent’s permission and the parents had to go pick them up. This was followed by a conversation that was unpleasant for everyone. Sometimes conflicts arise because of day-to-day problems, crowding, and lack of accustomed conveniences.

2.6 Medical care and medicine

The war has put a major strain on Ukraine’s medical system. From the beginning of the invasion through 8 May 2023, Russian missiles and shells destroyed 177 medical institutions and damaged another 1,256. Only 237 have been fully rebuilt, and over 280 have been partially rebuilt (Ministry of Health data). Some medical personnel have been forced to evacuate abroad, while others have faced shelling and attacks by the Russian occupiers. The most complex situation is in de-occupied territories of Ukraine and territories subjected to regular attacks by the Russian Army, where a large number of IDP live. The de-occupied territories require the most urgent repairs to medical infrastructure and regular office hours for doctors. The state, international organizations, and charitable foundations are offering financial and humanitarian aid for this. Several hospitals have been rebuilt, medical equipment and medications have been brought in, and shelters have been set up in hromadas. Assistance, however, has not been distributed evenly throughout the de-occupied territories. Remote localities far from regional centers, which suffered greatly from the hostilities, are in need of special attention.

The war has affected the population’s overall state of health. The traumatic events and constant stress have aggravated chronic illnesses and led to an increase in the number of cardiovascular and neurological conditions. Many adults and children were seriously wounded and left with permanent disabilities as a result of regular shelling of civilian infrastructure. According to data from the OHCHR, from 24 February 2022 through 19 March 2023, 8,317 civilians died in Ukraine. This includes 261 boys and 204 girls. The gender of 31 children has not yet been established. Of 13,892 people wounded, 982 were children. The large number of civilian deaths and injuries were caused by the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects, in particular, shells from heavy artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems, as well as missile and air strikes.

Since the start of the full-scale war, fewer people are receiving routine vaccinations, primarily children (inoculations against hepatitis B, tuberculosis, polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, Hib, measles, mumps, and rubella). According to Ministry of Health data, the number of people receiving routine vaccinations has not yet returned to prewar levels. In 2022, between 62% and 74% of children under the age of one received vaccines against various illnesses, while the WHO recommends coverage of 95%.

During the war, simplified access to primary medical care was introduced for Ukrainians. This means that IDP have the right to receive primary or urgent medical care without signing a new declaration with a doctor. The same is true for electronic prescriptions for prescription medications. If necessary, a referral for specialized medical care can be obtained at the primary care facility that is closest to the patient’s current residence. Referrals are not needed for OB/GYNs, dentists, psychiatrists, substance abuse specialists, and physical therapists. IDP have the right to free medication during stays at in-patient facilities or as part of the Accessible Medications program.

Aside from opportunities available to everyone, IDP also receive medical care at humanitarian hubs. These hubs generally have internists and urgent care doctors who perform medical exams and initial consultations on all medical issues.

According to data from the International Organization for Migration (January 2023), 28% of IDP experienced a need for medication and medical services. Five percent of IDB surveyed said that medication and medical services were their most important need.

Our experience with monitoring surveys in Volyn and Lviv oblasts shows that displaced families with children were satisfied with the availability of medical care and services in local hromada. None of the families surveyed said they experienced any major problems receiving the medical care they needed for themselves or their children. Assessments of medical care varied depending on personal experience receiving medical care before the war and the type of locality where the family moved, the child’s state of health, the extent and complexity of their illness, and the efforts and financial resources required to receive secondary and tertiary specialized medical care. The accessibility and quality of medical services in large cities was rated higher than in rural areas. For example, some displaced parents in rural hromada in Lviv Oblast said there was a temporary shortage of medications and vaccines for children.

At the time of the survey (a short time after evacuation), the displaced families surveyed had either already signed new declarations with family doctors at their new place of residence or were in the process of doing this. Regardless of whether they had a declaration or not, members of displaced families received robust medical care, consultations, and the necessary medication.

“My son went to a doctor. Everything was fine. They saw us, rewrote the declaration, and gave us a referral to the doctor we needed to see.”
Woman, displaced family with children from Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast.

“We were registered with a local family doctor. Our oldest daughter has a diagnosis of diabetes. And insulin was free for us at home and here. Even the dentist is free. Local medical personnel embraced us.”
Woman, internally displaced family with children, one of whom has a disability, from Kyiv Oblast.

“I went to a medical facility with my wife and children. We were provided with care. I can say that we didn’t have any particular problems with this.”
Man, displaced family, Roma from Kharkiv.

Within Ukraine, the government, which controls affected territories and territories where there are no hostilities, is entrusted with the main responsibility for providing aid to the population suffering a humanitarian crisis. The Ukrainian Ministry of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories and the relevant ministries and agencies are, with support from humanitarian partners, responsible for coordinating national efforts to provide aid.

Local authorities, particularly in the western and central regions that accepted people from affected territories, work with domestic and international humanitarian partners to track people’s movements and coordinate humanitarian support. To provide affected civilians with aid and coordinate volunteer initiatives in a timely manner, the Ukrainian president has used international humanitarian aid and financing from a special account created by the National Bank for humanitarian donations to create the Coordination Headquarters for Humanitarian and Social affairs, which helps citizens overcome difficult life circumstances connected with Russia’s armed aggression (official press release, 2 March 2022).

Consultation and coordination centers are operating in receiving oblasts. They offer IDP various types of services, including informational, psychological, employment, and other services. To support IDP who left the most affected cities and oblasts, the individual humanitarian hubs “I am Mariupol,” hubs for IDP from Bakhmut, and other hubs have been opened.

On 7 April 2023, the Cabinet of Ministers also approved a state strategy policy for internal displacement until 2025. The corresponding operating plan for 2023-2025 was approved. One of the program’s key goals is to help IDP adapt to their new community and integrate into and develop in receiving territorial hromada, as well as to provide support for their safe return to their previous communities and for their reintegration.

On 9 May 2023, the Cabinet of Ministers adopted the resolution “On the coordination centers to support the civilian population” and approved the corresponding regulations. These centers will provide support and assistance to IDP and war veterans suffering as a result of the armed conflict. The activities of these centers will be directed at solving social security matters, including providing housing, helping the affected population find employment, and providing sociopsychological, medical, and legal aid.

Monetary assistance from the state is envisaged for IDP: a one-time payment in the amount of 6,500 hryvnia for self-employed and salaried people living in areas of hostilities (this aid must be applied for through the Diia service) and monthly accommodation allowances of 2,000 hryvnia for adults and 3,000 hryvnia for children and persons with disabilities.

In addition, the state policy to assist IDP envisages financial tools to incentivize [people] to offer housing and jobs to IDP in need. This includes compensation for utilities for people who are housing an IDP in their homes (from 1 October 2022 to 31 March 2023 compensation amounted to 30 hryvnia per person, per day) and subsidies of 6,5000 hryvnia to Ukrainian entrepreneurs for each IDP they hire for the first two months of that person’s employment.

According to a press release from the press service of the Ministry of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories, in February 2023, a large number of IDP called a hotline with complaints about delays with accommodation allowances (materials from the portal Words and Deeds, 19 February 2023). The delays were generally due to technical reasons. Monetary support for IDP may also end if their locality is removed from the list of dangerous territories and their housing was not damaged as a result of the hostilities (the most up-to-date list of dangerous areas should be checked on the ministry’s website).

IDB can receive monetary aid as part of the mission of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Ukraine (a one-time payment of 2,500 hryvnia) and from a UN agency – UNICEF, UNHCR, IOM, or the World Food Program (about 2,500 hyrvnia per person, per month, with various criteria for payment (priority give to vulnerable categories, residents of certain areas, and so forth), for three to five months).

Financial assistance for IDP and residents of temporarily occupied territories is also provided by other international humanitarian organizations: a one-time payment of USD100 to families with many children from the platform Gate to Ukraine and three monthly payments of 2200-2220 hyrvinia for each family member (with account for various criteria of vulnerability, certain territories, time of displacement, etc.) from the Norwegian Refugee Council, the nongovernmental humanitarian organizations ACTED (France), the Estonian Refugee Council, the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, Save the Children, and the humanitarian organization People in Need (Czech Republic).

Meanwhile, the surveys show that assistance from state and humanitarian organizations provides displaced people with a relatively modest standard of living. Parents in displaced families say that material assistance to families with children is “modest.” Humanitarian aid is provided mainly in the form of food products (food parcels), personal hygiene items, and clothes, if there is a corresponding humanitarian center. There are major differences in the quality and quantity of this aid across hromadas. It is particularly difficult for displaced families with children living in rural areas to access financial assistance and social services. In many communities, there is no difference between humanitarian aid for families with children and families without children.

Different institutions and organizations have provided aid to displaced families. People surveyed said these include city and rural councils; family, children, and youth services; social security agencies; and administrative services centers.

“Childrens’ services work actively on these issues. We also have a public center for social services, there’s the public institution Gospodar, and the administrative services centers. They’re all involved.”
Staff member at the office of children’s services, Zabolottsi territorial hromada, Lviv Oblast.

“Our city council operates a distribution point for clothes, food products and personal hygiene items for such families.”
Staff member at the Halytsya City Council, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast.

“We ask whoever we know, or we speak with social services. We have it all arranged very well, work between the state and nongovernmental sectors.”
Representative of Care in Action nongovernmental organization.

“Local authorities don’t have money. They seek help from nongovernmental organizations and volunteers.”
Staff member at the SOS Children’s Villages of Ukraine charitable foundation.

If we look at non-financial forms of material aid to IDP in Ukraine, then it is important to note the enormous contribution of nongovernmental organizations, charitable foundations, businesses, and the initiatives of Ukrainian citizens in localities. Assistance from NGOs for displaced people in need is generally available at all levels of relocation – from departure from place of residence to arrival at an end point, as well as throughout the entire time they are living in their new place. IDP are offered transportation and provided with food and, if necessary, clothes, personal hygiene items, connectivity, and the chance to charge their phones. NGOs also set up warming points and places to spend the night and provide medical and psychological care.

Charitable nongovernmental and humanitarian organizations provide a tremendous amount of aid. These include: Spivdiia, a volunteer P2P platform created with support from the Coordination Headquarters for Humanitarian and Social Affairs of the Office of the President of Ukraine; the charitable foundation In Mother’s Hands (humanitarian aid to families with children who are displaced or living in the combat zone); the international charitable foundation Help Us Help UA (humanitarian aid for displaced families with many children or raising orphaned children, children deprived of parental care, or children with disabilities); We Are a Generation for Change (assistance to IDP from Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, including families with children, pregnant women, and homes for the elderly and people with special needs); the charitable organization From Heart (mainly food assistance); the Good Deeds center for social protection, assistance, and development; SOS Children’s Villages; the Ukrainian Red Cross Society; Caritas Ukraine; the nongovernmental organizations Let’s do it Ukraine, Right to Protection, Wave of Good; the charitable foundations Voices of Children (humanitarian and psychological assistance for internally displaced families with children); Slavic Heart; Development of the Country; Rokada, Hands of Mercy, My Support, the Christian humanitarian mission Hands of Help, the support center Let’s Save Ukraine, and others. Major assistance and support is also provided by the international community, primarily UN structures (especially UNICEF), and religious organizations.

“I can name Caritas – they give out food products, the Greek Catholic Church, other religious missions, the Dominican sisters, local businesses. Cleaning products come from I am Ukrainian, residents also bring what they can.”
Staff member at a social services center in Dobrosino-Magerovskaya territorial hromada, Lviv Oblast.

Even though some respondents said that they were left to fend for themselves in their new communities, most parents and children survived the difficult period of adaptation to new and unaccustomed circumstances and were able to resolve organizational and everyday problems. The successful integration of displaced families can in many ways be attributed to the positions of local communities, their administrations, and regular residents.

“We tried, and we took on a lot of problems.”
Staff member at the office of children’s services, Lviv Oblast Military State Administration.

“The elders always want to help however they can.”
Staff member at a social services center in Dobrosino-Magerovskaya territorial hromada, Lviv Oblast.

Communities also turned to public institutions and nongovernmental organizations to help resolve problems and, sometimes, to help find jobs for parents.

“We try to resolve all questions as they come in. If we can’t figure it out ourselves, we ask charitable organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and even just people who want to help.”

“We called Lvivobloenergo, because the meter and circuitry needed to be changed.”

“Our rural council, our utility workers help. Of course, there aren’t enough of us to handle everything, we can’t get everything done, but we try to help where we can.”
Staff member at the office of children’s services, Zabolottsi territorial hromada, Lviv Oblast.

Problems relating to material things like food, clothing, shoes, furniture, and personal hygiene items can usually be handled through the joint efforts of the families themselves, local government bodies, NGOs and foundations, and church communities.

The Ukrainian population has a well developed culture of using the worldwide web and various apps that provide access to electronic information sources (including through the use of messenger services). Thanks to this, Ukrainians have been able to receive up-to-date information about the situation at their place of residence, combat reports, notifications about the need to evacuate, and information about evacuation routes, refugee assembly points, relocation rules and procedures, and the kinds of assistance provided. The availability of electronic documents on the Diia app has made it easier to submit paperwork for IDP status and to receive monetary assistance.

Relevant information for IDP is provided on government websites: The Ukrainian Ministry of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories (published a reference for IDP); the Ministry of Social Policy; a government services portal; and the E dopomoga platform.

Online publications regularly post information about decisions made by national and local government bodies affecting IDP (relocation, housing and assistance, benefits, and so forth). NGOs and private initiatives post information about their activities and ways to receive assistance on their websites and messenger channels.

There are many groups on social media where people join together to offer assistance or look for it for displaced Ukrainians. When state institutions and municipal services cannot provide for certain needs of Ukrainian families in a timely manner, NGOs often bring in volunteer organizations to help find solutions (for example, if a certain piece of furniture like a children’s desk or a changing table is needed). In general, such requests are quickly satisfied by private individuals or donations from businesses.


The Russian-Ukrainian war has made it significantly more difficult and even impossible to observe the most important rights of child migrants listed in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child:

  • the right to life – due to constant shelling of civilian infrastructure by the Russian Army throughout Ukraine;
  • the right to education – due to declining access to educational services;
  • the right to rest and leisure – due to limitations on the opportunity for quality and timely recreation;
  • the right to a decent standard of living – due to loss of housing, deterioration of parents’ financial status, loss of their jobs;
  • the right not to be separated from parents and the right to parental care – due to the murder, kidnapping, and capture by the Russian Army of a large number of civilians, as well as to the extended absence of at least one parent and complications with family reunification caused by martial law;
  • the right to protection from discrimination – due to frequent cases where peers and the social environment of migrant children view them as members of incomplete, “inferior” families;
  • the right to freedom of choice – due to parents’ forced lack of consideration for their children’s opinions regarding plans for migration and return home;
  • the right to protection from psychological abuse – due to the consequences of coming under shelling, loss of relatives, complex evacuations, and other traumatic circumstances, as well as alienation of family members, breaking up of families, and lack of understanding between parents and children.
  • the right to take advantage of social benefits – due to barriers to receiving quality social services caused by the need to document one’s status.

Most people evacuated from dangerous regions had a traumatic experience moving to their new communities. This was caused by the lack of psychological and organizational preparedness to suddenly move, danger to life and health, and uncertainties about prospects for existence in their new communities.

Evacuation has dramatically changed the accustomed way of life for the population in certain territories, sources of income, and communication and leisure practices.

Women who evacuated separately from men commented that they have become more independent and decisive and have to solve problems that their husbands usually handled.

Some families who moved from eastern Ukraine to the western regions had quite a few problems adapting to unfamiliar living conditions, ways of life, and communication practices. Such families needed to adapt to the special features of the local mentality, overcome the language barrier, and adjust to everyday customs and ways of communication.

People forced to change their place of residence experienced a higher level of psychological exhaustion than the population in relatively safe regions. Most refugees experience different kinds of negative states, including confusion, feelings of hopelessness, feelings of guilt before those who remained home, and emotional instability.

The majority of displaced families who survived bombing, the destruction of their homes, and difficult evacuations felt a desperate need for psychological care and even just human support and sympathy.

Generally, families’ housing and living conditions were better before evacuation than after.

Many displaced families live in cramped conditions, and their housing often lacks amenities. Meanwhile, cramped quarters can often lead to misunderstandings and complex relations with other evacuated people.

The situation with children’s leisure and enrichment activities and opportunities for rest differ widely depending on their material situation, their living conditions in their new communities, and the way in which their own families determine their needs and priorities.

Integration of evacuated families into an unaccustomed environment generally requires time and effort on the part of the family itself, members of the local government, society, and local residents. Displaced families do not always have a smooth time adapting to local conditions, establishing new ties, and adjusting to a new mentality and living situation.

Settlement programs for displaced people in Ukraine and the provision of temporary and public housing has made it possible to avoid cases of homelessness among refugees. At the same time, the problem of securing housing is quite acute. State compensation to citizens (including refugees) whose housing was damaged or destroyed as a result of the hostilities should make this problem less keenly felt. The corresponding law was adopted by the Verkhovna Rada, but the compensation program is in need of practical implementation. There is the risk that housing certificates (which list the amount of compensation) will lose their value because of inflation and people in need will not be able to solve their housing problems.

Most displaced people, including the children of refugees, have lived through significant stress and suffering and experienced psychological trauma. Displaced people have acknowledged these problems in interviews. At the same time, the need for psychological help is not always acknowledged. The absence of a culture of care surrounding psychological health and experience talking with a psychologist and the stigmatization of receiving care from a psychologist or psychiatrist are barriers to receiving the needed care. State social services, NGOs, and volunteers have created prerequisites for the provision of psychological care to those in need.

Based on an analysis of the survey results, we can characterize the provision of aid to displaced people in Ukraine and other countries as “fairly successful.” The main achievements of the aid system are:

  • effectiveness of the program to provide temporary and public housing and, as a result, the absence of homelessness among migrants;
  • effectiveness of the program to provide financial and material assistance and, as a result, the avoidance of extreme impoverishment among the population;
  • access to primary medical care;
  • access to a school education for migrant children;
  • openness and flexibility of state agencies to organizing assistance with active participation from social organizations and businesses;
  • sensitivity to members of vulnerable groups.

There are grounds to assert that surveys of the number of displaced people, their ages, the presence of children and other sociodemographic characteristics, and their relevant problems and needs are not conducted regularly, but sporadically and without any methodological basis. This unsatisfactory situation is present both in Ukraine and abroad. There are major omissions in terms of information about the basic needs of displaced people, means for helping them adapt to their new realities, and the success of integration into a new community. The absence of regular surveys and studies of the living conditions of Ukrainian refugees constrains the development of an effective humanitarian policy, measures, and services that respond to the actual needs of displaced people, including families with children.


Create a unified database (register) on Ukrainian refugees and IDP. This would make it possible in the future to systematize information about the number of migrants and IDP in different countries and regions, their actual needs and desired forms of social support, and the situation with observance and protection of children’s rights.

There is a need for measures to increase the level of migrants’ familiarity with the law and create an algorithm for actions in common, problematic situations, including situations related to nurturing and protecting the rights of children.

Increase the knowledge of migrants, create information platforms and resources that will contain relevant information about opportunities to receive the necessary services in the country or region of residence, protect the rights of children. Create and moderate social media groups for providing necessary information to refugee families, share experiences resolving everyday and legal problems related to raising children.

Support telephone and online “trust lines” where refugee families and IDP, including children, can turn for advice or help.

Provide compensation to citizens whose housing was destroyed as a result of hostilities, reasonably supplement the state program to build public housing by involving foreign investors. An example of such cooperation would be the signing, on 19 December 2022, of an agreement between the European Commission and municipal authorities in Lviv on the allocation of 19.5 million euro to build public housing for Ukrainians suffering as a result of the war.

Arrange for psychological care for members of refugee families and IDP, provide training in methods for preventing and overcoming crisis situations in relationships that arise because of migration. Conduct educational work among refugees to overcome bias about receiving psychological care. Conduct broad information campaigns for displaced people about how and where they can receive psychological care. Separate attention should be devoted to improving refugees’ access to such care in rural hromada of Ukraine. It would be helpful to create a mobile psychological care program using Ukrainian specialists that could travel to other countries, particularly those where Ukrainian refugees are suffering because of the language barrier, and provide psychological care to vulnerable groups.

To resolve the problems of integrating Roma children, there must be targeted solutions that account for the specific features of their culture and community. Activists from Roma communities should learn how to use existing opportunities and resources to effectively counter instances of xenophobia.

To solve the problem of unaccompanied children abroad, the rules for crossing the border should be reviewed so that no minor remains “invisible” to the social services of Ukraine and receiving countries and so that all children have a guardian/legal representative.

Regular studies of migration and its impact on children in Ukraine and throughout the world should be conducted. These studies are relevant because of the fast pace of changes in the situation with observance of the rights of migrant children and IDP.

Increase medical services in non-occupied territories, allocate und to rebuilding medical infrastructure in localities where it has been damaged.

Conduct informational campaigns on routine vaccinations, particularly among the parents of newborns and young children.

Better inform people about possible options for leaving occupied territories, including people in the Russian Federation and the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea. It is important to interact with volunteer and nongovernmental initiatives in these areas, as well as on the territories of states bordering Russian, to provide assistance to Ukrainians leaving for European countries.

Help arrange recreational activities for as many children as possible, especially for children with disabilities, children from single-parent families, children whose parents died during the war, and children from other vulnerable categories.